Too many of PA’s voting districts are gerrymandered. Pam supports a way to put this practice out of its misery.
Fair and square elections are what citizens are demanding and I am working hard to deliver by supporting redistricting reform legislation.
Why is this important? Every ten years after the U.S. Census is taken, new boundaries are drawn for Pennsylvania State Senators and Representatives to accommodate shifts in population. This redistricting process is necessary but the manner in which the new boundaries are drawn has been abused by a process known as gerrymandering. Gerrymandering is the manipulation of the boundaries to favor one party.
Pennsylvania is one of the most gerrymandered states in the country. To see the damaging effects on our state, check out my Facebook page at Rep DeLissio to see an album of maps of the many state senate, house, and congressional districts that have been redrawn to allow politicians to choose voters rather than the other way around.
This process undermines our democratic form of government in other ways as well. One impact: there are fewer and fewer legislators who run unopposed in general elections because many of these districts are no longer competitive; the seats are designed to be safe.
A further consequence is the senators and representatives elected as a result of gerrymandered districts are often ideologically rigid, which results in less compromise between the parties and more gridlock in Harrisburg.
Gerrymandering is not new – it dates back to 1812 when the Governor of Massachusetts oversaw the redistricting process and drew the boundaries in such a way that it resembled a salamander. The Governor’s last name, Gerry, was substituted for ‘sala’ and we have ‘gerrymander’.
Currently the leaders of the four caucuses, (Democrats and Republicans from the state House and Senate) and a 5th person who is ostensibly non-partisan, decide the boundaries.
Most importantly, these decisions are not made in any public or transparent manner. Although these decisions have been challenged at the PA Supreme Court, it has never resulted in appropriately redrawn districts. This sends a clear message that the court has tacitly blessed gerrymandering.
What Can Be Done?
Fair Districts PA is a coalition of citizens and organizations who believe that in American democracy, elections should represent the will of all the people, not just the politicians, and should provide citizens with meaningful choices in electing representatives. The goal of the coalition is to pass legislation that would result in a citizen’s commission drawing the Senate and House district boundaries.
The coalition is making headway as evidenced by their recent lobby day in Harrisburg on May 9th and the fact that over 40% of the PA House has signed on to co-sponsor HB722 for redistricting reform.
About 30% of the PA Senate has also signed on to SB22.
These are companion bills; meaning that they are identical.
This legislation will amend the state constitution and therefore will need to pass in two separate sessions of the PA General Assembly. The legislation will need to pass in this 2017-2018 session and again in the 2019-2020 session.
As with all constitutional amendments the legislation will then appear on the ballot for the voters to have the final say.
Fair Districts PA urges all citizens to contact their state Senators and Representatives to urge them to co-sponsor this redistricting reform legislation. Check out this link (with a handy search engine to find your local legislators and suggestions for getting involved after you’ve called them)
Since I am a believer of ‘fair and square’ elections I have signed on as a co-sponsor of this legislation.
Want to Know More?
Visit Pam’s office at 6511 Ridge Avenue or call (215) 482-8726.